City Government

Density To Rival New York?

The following guest opinion was submitted to Boise officials as testimony regarding the proposed zoning ordinance change.

Guess Opinion by

Boise currently allows between 15 to 45 dwelling units per acre, sometimes more, and under the proposed Zoning Code those numbers remain but, in some cases, unlimited density is allowed.

Contrast Boise with all five boroughs that comprise New York City – the most densely populated city in the nation.

According to the 2020 Census, New York City, overall, has approximately 19 dwelling units per acre. Boise’s currently allowed maximum density and proposed maximum density is at least twice that of New York City overall and about two thirds the density of Manhattan which has 63 units per acre.

After New York City, San Francisco is the second most densely populated city in the United States.

So why is Boise attempting to surpass both New York City and San Francisco in density? Do Boise residents really want to live in the most densely populated city in America? As a 45 plus year Boise resident, who grew up in Philadelphia proper, I don’t think so.

It is time to make both rational and realistic decisions about population density. 45 dwelling units per acre is neither rational nor realistic. The same goes for unlimited density. Perhaps 10 to 12 dwelling units per acre would be sufficient. Dwelling units per acre in that range are more than double the 2020 Census reported dwelling unit density for Boise and they are more than sufficient to support a transit system per St. Paul, MN Metropolitan Council guidelines.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Nirvana of Wonderfulness
    Apr 8, 2023, 10:39 pm

    It’s a great idea, but we don’t have nearly enough violence and the cops are still arresting people. So there is so much more work to do tearing Boise down and building a new nirvana of wonderfulness.

  2. western guy
    Apr 9, 2023, 12:06 pm

    Sort of related to density, WHY do the policy wonks in City Hall continue to believe that housing issues are contained within the city limits of Boise?

    Also, what about sewer, water, gas and electrical infrastructure to support all these new units? More streets being torn up to replace/expand utility capacity. Is that what we want?

    EDITOR NOTE–Utility companies are all asking for rat hikes to pay for their need to expand capacity. Growth pays for itself as long as the rates go up. Veolia water is asking for about 25% hike.

  3. If you want to view 43 units on 3/4 of an acre drive by Vista and Targhee. All of the workers vehicles parked on Targhee will give you an idea of density on our streets.Hope no tenant has a need to plug in their electric vehicle?

  4. The current density of Boise 1.8 units/acre. The Central Bench is around 5. Allowing 15-45 units/acre has not resulted in density rivaling New York in the past and will no do so in the future. Argue for/against upzoning all you want but the premise of this opinion piece is patently false.

  5. Most of Boise is R-1 zoning which ranges from 2-8 units/acre. Don’t know where your 15-45 is coming from

  6. The Author Responds
    Apr 12, 2023, 2:21 pm


    The 15 – 45 numbers are coming from current Boise City allowable densities and the proposed 611 page Zone Code Rewrite. There are tables within each document which show allowable densities and also how those densities might be increased if certain conditions are met.

    For starters see:

    Just about anyway you look at it, Boise densities (current and proposed) are either close to current NYC densities or exceed current NYC densities.

  7. Boise Lawyer
    Apr 12, 2023, 5:28 pm

    “Just about anyway you look at it, Boise densities (current and proposed) are either close to current NYC densities or exceed current NYC densities.”

    Any way you look at it? Well damn my lying eyes then.

  8. western guy
    Apr 13, 2023, 1:43 pm

    RE: Editor’s Note on my previous:

    Utility rate increases (borne by all users) caused by needing more capacity means we ALL pay for denser housing (which requires area-specific capacity increases). Why not make developers pay for those area-specific capacity requirements (and the trunk lines (sewer, water, electrical, roads)?

    EDITOR NOTE–Well said! Also impose impact fees for schools which do not currently exist.

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